If you’ve been keeping up with regular social media uproar throughout Ramadan then you’ve definitely heard a thing or two about Amal Maher’s Elly Adra, the viral theme song for Leih La2, a show starring Amina Khalil.
Because of theme song’s video revealing quite a few spoilers (i/e: the main character goes Runaway Bride), it’s been hard not catching a few opinions here and there about how this is “faux feminism” or “pandering”.
To that, we said that it was entirely too early to judge an un-aired show. Now, that Leih La2 is out, though, this is an entirely different story. Buckle up, it’s Review Time.
Plot (3 episodes in)
The show starts out with a wedding (yes, the wedding from the spoiler-filled theme song) and as we see more of the wedding setting and the bride’s preparations, we also see Alia’s (Amina Khalil) face. Full of worry and stress to the point of suffocation.
We don’t spend much time wondering why she looks like she’s 3 seconds away from a breakdown, though. We’re quickly introduced to Sohair (Hala Sedky), Alia’s domineering mother and the rest of the family that’s all but pressuring her into marrying her fiance.
Eventually this tension and pressure draws Alia into a fight-or-flight response and she runs out on her own wedding — and this is only how the story starts.
As the episodes go on, we move through Alia’s life and we begin to understand her perfectly. She’s stifled by her mom and uncle and unappreciated and never did a single thing she’s ever wanted to do and now she’s reached her breaking point.
Finally deciding to take control of her destiny, a 31 year-old Alia finds a way out in a contest targeted towards MENA-region women, in which the first target is to move out and being independent. She signs up and, as expected, only her friends are in her corner. Her family…not so much.
As Alia restarts her life and starts learning more about herself and independence (and some needed cooking skills), we see the beginning of the B-plot begin with her friend Radwa (Mariam El-Khosht), who chooses to go the opposite, more traditional route and we see the seeds laid out for a future confrontation between the two friends that we honestly cannot wait to see.
Of the many, many characters, our first and most important is Alia, a 30-something year-old who’s going through major changes. She cancelled her wedding, entered a contest, moved out, and is learning to live on her own. And honestly? This character is extremely realistic!
Contrary to popular Facebook myth, Alia isn’t a Straw Feminist but rather, a woman fed up with not being allowed breathing room. A woman who discovered that she cannot give the rest of her life to her mother’s wishes for her, resulting in a power struggle that everyone knows all too well.
We also have Sohair, the mom, who, isn’t that different from Alia. She, too, was stifled by her mother’s rules (see a pattern?) but eventually internalized them and took out her frustrations at a life un-lived on her daughters. And, no, she’s not a horrible mom. She really cares but doesn’t know how to express that openly…something we have a feeling will change as episodes go by.
Hala (Shereen Reda) also features as the cool aunt to end all cool aunts, breaking every box and limitation on her way, much to the chagrin of her sister. Naturally, her relationship with Alia is among the most important because she’s one of the first people who encourage her to be independent, which causes the rift between Hala and Sohair to grow.
And although we have a lot of other characters, we’re wrapping this up with Radwa, who is, for all intents and purposes, Alia’s foil because while Alia starts branching out, we can see Radwa is hesitant about choosing the uncertain path although we can tell her life has just as much pressure and tension as Alia’s pre-cancelled wedding life.
Verdict, so far
If you think we’re telling you that it’s still too early to tell if this is a good show, well, you’d be right. It is too early. At the time we’re writing this, there are only 3 episodes out.
But here’s the thing, though. With all its messages about mother-daughter struggles and freedom and not being too late to change your life, Leih La2 has a pretty strong case in becoming the next must-watch show about Egyptian women and their lives.